1900 - Tom Filby wrote a letter home to his parents in Grenfell, New South Wales, today.
....Writing to his parents, under date 12 August, from Mafeking, Trooper T. Filby, of the New South Wales Imperial Bushmen, says :—Since the last time I wrote we have seen a little action. After we left here we went to Lichtenburg, and from there to Ottoshoop, where we stayed a couple of days, and then went on to Zeerust, meeting a squadron of the 1st Bushmen, who told us the rest of their men were at Rustenburg, and some at Elands River. We stayed at Zeerust one day when Sir Frederick Carrington came up with the rest of our men, so we were about 1000 strong. Left there and started for Elands River, which took us two days. On the second morning after leaving Zeerust, twenty of our men under Lieutenant Doyle went ahead to try and get a glimpse of the position the enemy held, as we heard the enemy were bombarding the town. They got within about two miles when they were fired on. Les Dumont was with the men that went ahead, and he was the first fired on. He was on the right flank about a quarter of a mile from the others, who were in extended order, when he heard the report of a rifle and a bullet whizzed over his head. He could not make out where it came from, so he galloped up the hill, getting nearer the fire. Another shot rang out about 200 yards away from him, and just as it did his horse stumbled and fell over him. He got up again with his horse, and stood behind him, and a couple more bullets went over his head, so he got on his horse and galloped back to the others, under fire all the time. The others were also fired on, so they were forced to retreat. We camped about three miles from the town that night. Next morning we started, one squadron in the lead as advance guard. We got about two miles when they opened fire on us, but we kept going till we reached a vacant kopje about a mile from the town. As we ascended the hill seven shells, one after another, came over our heads, just missing the hill we were on and striking one beyond. I can tell you most of us thought it was all up. We got cover among the rocks and opened fire on the enemy, it being only an odd one here and there that we could see. In the meantime our pom poms and 15-pounders which were about half-a-mile to our rear opened out, and for about two hours an artillery duel was kept up. We were forced to retire after about three hours, for the Boers held strong positions. They were all round in the shape of a horseshoe, and there were about 5000 of them under De la Rey. We got about three miles along the road and were watering horses when we were again fired on, but the 15-pounders were turned on them and they shut up. We started again on our way back to Zeerust, C Squadron, in which Harry Best is in, formed the rear guard. He told me about 400 Boers were following us up. We reached the Marico River in safety and camped for the night. There were two missing, several wounded, and a dozen horses shot. Two men of Paget's Horse were killed by a shell. I am sorry to say that Hubert Watt is one of the missing. Harry Best told me that his (Hubert's) horse was shot under him, and then he was hit in the trouser pocket, and some cartridges he had in his pocket prevented the bullet going through him. He was last seen walking a bit lame. I hope he is still alive—no doubt he is captured. Next day one troop of C squadron was sent out to see if a convoy of waggons which were bringing supplies for us from Zeerust was coming along. They only got a mile on their way when they were fired on, so they came back to camp for a relief, so we saddled up again and started. We galloped to within 500 yards of the enemy when they opened fire on us ; this time it was pretty hot, and we had to retire about 200 yards for cover. We then poured volleys at them, or rather at their breastworks. The artillery came up and opened at them, routing them clean out. When we got up to where they were, there was not one to be seen. Another party was away at the rear firing on our waggons, but they were soon silenced by the Maxims. We got through all right and pushed on for Zeerust. It is marvellous how we escaped the bullets, Some of the men got them through their clothes, another through his hat, and one through the heel of his boot, cutting the flesh, We arrived at Zeerust the next morning at 5 o'olock, being twenty two hours in the saddle. The General gave all the British residents at Zeerust notice to quit the town, and £30,000 worth of supplies were burned so the Boers could not get it, as they are expecting them every day. We left Zeerust on Wednesday, 8th July, coming back through Ottoshoop, and arrived here on Friday, where we will be for a few days I think. I don't know where our next move will be to ; we never know where we are going. There are about 5000 men in camp here, including the Victorians and New Zealanders. The small garrison consisting of 160 of the 1st Bushmen, and 140 of the Rhodesian Volunteers at Elands River were captured. We have not heard of Alf. Prussing ; he might have been amongst the captured. I do not think the war will last much longer ; the Boers are slowly being surrounded. The Grenfell Record [NSW], Saturday 22nd September 1900
Tom was in the first Grenfell contingent to leave for South Africa, along with Alf McCarthy, Les Dumont, and Alex. Wallace.
The following user(s) said Thank You: QSAMIKE, LinneyI, Moranthorse1
A nice report of the actions involving the 6th NSWIB. One of my favourite units. As a matter of interest one of the medals in my collection was awarded to a C Sqn member of NSWIB so that gives Tom Filby's account rather more interest. The Eland's River post did not fall and the defence of the post was an epic of the time. A suitable clasp was supposedly promised to the defenders but never eventuated. Which did cause some little ill-feeling. The local historians in the past did mainly give the credit for the defence of the Eland's River post pretty much to the NSW Citizen's Bushmen and the Rhodesian Volunteers were left out.
Today, unless a man was an Eland's River casualty, it is difficult to ascertain just who was at the post. A real pity.
As a matter of interest, the Alf Prussing mentioned by Tom was "74 Tpr. Alfred Prussing" of NSWCB of A sqn who returned to Aust and later served in the Canadian Scouts.
LinneyI wrote: The local historians in the past did mainly give the credit for the defence of the Eland's River post pretty much to the NSW Citizen's Bushmen and the Rhodesian Volunteers were left out.
I did a search and found that a Scottish newspaper, in July 1901, printed, in three parts, the reminiscences of an anonymous member of F Troop of the Rhodesian Volunteers. I'll post them somewhere, and include an obituary of Captain Alexander Buttar/Butter.